Peter Jackson vents his frustration over the bitter 'Hobbit' labor dispute: 'I'm out of my depth.'

Peter Jackson has staged some epic, humdinger battles on-screen, but the battle royale taking place off-screen over The Hobbit — with actors’ unions feuding with the production and Warner Bros. threatening to relocate filming out of New Zealand — clearly has left him deeply exasperated. In an interview with a New Zealand television reporter (see part of the interview embedded below), the director vents his frustration at the ongoing labor dispute, which is just the latest in a series of difficult hurdles he has had to overcome to bring The Hobbit to the screen.

Appearing with co-writer Philippa Boyens on a soundstage built for The Hobbit, he frets that the unions’ boycott — which he says had “no validity” — has done great harm to the reputation of the New Zealand film industry, so much so that he doesn’t know how he can persuade Warner Bros. that it should spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make the two Hobbit films there. “I don’t know what to say,” he says. “This is where I’m out of my depth … I can talk my way around the movie. But to tell the studio why investing $500 million in our country is a good idea when they’ve just seen the disgusting, frivolous action that’s happened … I literally don’t know what to say to them.” Taking aim at Helen Kelly, the president of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, who has been critical of his handling of the dispute, Jackson’s anger boils over: “How dare you. You are choosing an Australian union over the workers of our country. Stuff her. I don’t care what the hell she says.”

At the same time, Jackson insists he is neither anti-union (“I’m a paid-up member of four different unions”) nor anti-actor (“They can be a little self-centered, some of them,” he says, “but we have had a huge show of support, too.”) With the brinksmanship on both sides reaching a climax, Jackson says he doesn’t know at this point whether the film will stay in New Zealand or not. “Is the movie going to come or go? We don’t know,” he says. “The damage has been done.”

It’s been a long, tough slog just to get this movie to the starting line. Obviously, yesterday’s casting news lifted the spirits of Hobbit-watchers, but given how crucial the strange and beautiful New Zealandness of New Zealand is to Jackson’s vision of Middle-earth, does this ongoing wrangling worry you? Watch the video below (there’s also additional footage from the Jackson interview here) and share your thoughts.

Read more:
‘The Hobbit': Martin Freeman to play Bilbo Baggins; other roles also cast
Will ‘The Hobbit’ finally turn Martin Freeman into a stateside star?
‘The Hobbit’ could still exit NZ, reads New Line statement
‘The Hobbit’ will shoot in New Zealand after all. Well, maybe. Hopefully. We’ll see.
Peter Jackson officially to direct ‘The Hobbit’
‘Hobbit’ casting: Martin Freeman could still play Bilbo Baggins

Comments (111 total) Add your comment
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  • dan

    I just hope it films in New Zealand. There is no other Middle Earth.

    • Michael


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    • Quirky

      But it’s not like New Zealand has a monopoly on alpine valleys and snow capped mountains.

      • Seddie Forever!!!!!!!!!

        Norway would make an awesome middle earth

      • Lily

        True, Quirky. But New Zealand was awesome for all 3 LOTRs and the point is, Jackson knows that terrain really well, so he knew where he wanted to shoot. Plus, I can’t think of any other director who has brought more film work to New Zealand?! The unions are/were being ridiculous. I agree with “Sir” Peter about his uneasiness to shoot in NZ; what if the unions “strike” again? And if NZ loses The Hobbit 1 & 2, it will have lost hundreds of millions of dollars in precious revenue. Still – my vote for the location is NZ!

    • Neko

      There are a dozen other middle earths. Yes, the first movies worked and looked great, but if they’d been filmed in Romania and looked every bit as good you’d just be here now saying “There is no other Middle Earth than Romania!”

      Personally, I’m far more concerned with the script and actor casting than the backdrop.

    • Nerwen Aldarion

      I think Ireland would work, the UK is where Tolkein originally envisioned Middle Earth after all…

      • technical guy

        Ireland is not in the UK, unless you mean Northern Ireland.

      • stickittotheman

        Technically, you’re a jerk.

      • Actual reality

        Stickittotheman clearly doesn’t know anything about Ireland.

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    • Amy

      Peter Jackson wants nothing more than to give the business & $$$ to his own country. He has always been an even tempered, non-partial guy. If he feels someone is blowing hot air, you know it’s probably true. Hope it can stay in NZ, but it’s not worth losing the entire movie. Unfair for the innocent actors who need work!

    • Shane

      Maybe they can move here in Canada.

  • brian

    Well as long as they get The Hobbit filmed I will be happy. With that said, the scenery in the Lord of the Rings was gorgeous, so I hope they do find a way to film in New Zealand.

  • ecuamerican

    I want this Helen Kelly on a platter. How can the people of New Zealand stand for this!?

  • Karen

    Keep it in New Zealand, Warner Bros., PLEASE!!!!!!!

  • aughra

    My Dad represented the management side of union negotiations for years. I think it took years off his life. I don’t blame Peter for feeling out of his depth and frustrated, especially when he’s in a helpless middle–this is between the unions and the studios.

  • ecuamerican

    You’d also think that the government would step in and tell her. “YO! You are killing us! Do you know how much money in tourism we’ve made!? Our image had been pristine until you came along. Did we mention how much money we’ve made for our tiny country!? For god’s sakes, we only have sheep!!” I hate this woman.

  • Haz

    There’s ment to be a mass protest to keep the hobbit in NZ in wellington this monday from other people in the film industry.
    Source Tvnz

  • tia

    I wonder if this woman realizes that she is about to screw New Zealand out of millions of dollars in business. Jobs, tourism, not to mention the boost to local business where filming takes place. There are other places that are just as beautiful where filming is possible. I personally think that South Africa would be a gorgeous place to film and I imagine it would be a more economical choice as well.

    • M.A.B.

      Try BILLIONS, actually. If the Hobbit leaves NZ, it won’t only destroy the film industry. It’ll have an impact on the country’s entire financial infrastructure. That’s why this is so devastating and upsetting to PJ, and basically to ALL kiwis (minus a tiny, recklessly vocal minority).

      • Amy

        Exactly! That’s what this woman is NOT getting. Yes, get the best for your people, but it’s a delicate balance and if you piss off the big boys, they will take their toys and go home.

      • Mike

        I didn’t know Fox News had a NZ affiliate!

      • Erica

        For the most part the comments here are belligerent, uninformed and say more about the people posting them than the issue and as the saying goes “We got along without you (overblown budgets and American studios) before we met you, we’ll get along without you now”. The Kiwi industry is resilient, hard working and will survive you arrogan smucks.

  • Kat

    Please film these movies in New Zealand!!! Not doing so would be like replacing a member of the cast. Like not having Ian McKellan as Gandalf. Please!!!!

    • Marty

      Move it!! Maybe next time they won’t be so greedy about things IF a movie ever films there again.

    • Lee

      I’m with Marty–MOVE IT! NZ should be grateful that WB showed an interest in making 2 films there–and this is the thanks that they get: CHAOS?! Who needs it? It’s not like NZ is the only place in this bloody world with green mountains and rolling valleys. To be perfectly honest, I don’t understand why an AMERICAN film studio would want to outsource all these jobs and stuff to a foreign country. Why should an American film studio have to pander to an Australian or NZ union? I say keep the jobs in America. Film the Hobbit in Hawaii. Or New England. Or the Midwest. And if Peter Jackson doesn’t want to do it there then get someone else. WB is being a wuss about all this.

      • Matthew Hakin

        The people of New Zealand are what made the LOTR such a great movie trilogy. I agree with a previous poster, moving the movie out of New Zealand would be like replacing Gandalf with any other actor.

      • Mike

        Did the kiwis play the orcs, goblins or ents? True, without those, there’s not much of a movie! :P

      • Del Coro

        Does it hurt, being that stupid?

  • barock

    They have TV in New Zealand?

    • Felix


    • Whatever


      • Devin Faraci

        New Zealand and Australia can suck it.

      • Willian

        It would be nice for the national sortps media to treat the Phillies like a legitimate power player in the MLB, and not the half-wits who somehow managed to stumble their way into contention despite the fact that they dont have a Santana or a Sabathia or an A-Rod or Jeter, only get their runs from the long ball (which, of course, is all luck and not a legitimate way to win games), and have violent, backstabbing, disgruntled fans who booed at football game half-time Santa Claus 40 years ago.

  • rob

    American money –film in US the actors would appreciate the jobs WB.

    • Lauren M. Lynley

      Warner Bros. is a multi-national corporation with primary funding sources in China, UAE, Europe, et cetera. Some may not like it, but it truly is a global world now. Besides, what American actor could possibly replace Sir Ian McKellen as Gandolf? Unthinkable!

      • when they talk about actors…

        …they are referring to extras and other smaller parts. They wouldn’t be replacing Ian McKellen or any of the other big names that were in the past films, unless of course they have passed on.

  • Rex

    When your country is going to benefit by hundreds of millions and from what Peter says your actors are on very generous contracts then what the hell is the CTU thinking?????

    As for the Australian Unions (and i’m an Aussie), tell them to bugger off.

    I’m highly surprised any union in NZ would take sides with a foreign union at the expense of it’s own members.

    This Helen woman sounds alot like our last (thankfully she’s gone now) head of the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) Sharon Burrows.

    Sharon went to the World Trade Council of Unions and said flat out that Australian employers were worse than employers in countries such as North Korea and Burma……….What a whackjob that lady was.

    I do hope it stays in NZ and more members threaten canceling their memberships if the CTU doesn’t back off. I know their will always be a hard core left faction but they do not make decisions for the majority.

    Go Peter and know this that there are Aussies backing you all the way too.

  • Neko

    New Zealand isn’t the only beautiful place in the world. Go film in the Carpathian mountains. Cheap, good scenery, rustic…

    • M.A.B.

      Neko, securing pretty scenery is the least of this production’s problems!

      Peter Jackson and his entire team of well over 3000 people –a HUGE, vibrant community in NZ that’s already been hard at work on these films for years– none of them want to move elsewhere, because they all know each other, and have a certain way of working. They’re horrified at the prospect of having to shift everything literally thousands of miles out of their comfort zone, and outsource to unknown, untested employees.

      No matter how you slice this, the quality and passion of the films will most likely be profoundly impacted by shifting the production elsewhere. NOT in a good way… whether they find some other pretty mountains or not.

      • Chris

        Excellent, excellent points MAB

      • Amy

        And Neko, they’ve already spent a great deal of time and money on sets that are in NZ!!! I think if the NZ Govt can step in and assure Warners, it’ll stay in NZ, but there can’t be any more of this drama. The people of NZ need this money.

      • To Amy

        The people of the US need this money! WB should’ve just filmed it in the US to begin with.

      • Mike

        Yeah, they could Film in west Texas Amy!!

    • Matthew Hakin

      Once again it’s not just about the scenery it is also about the people.

    • Aly

      To ‘to Amy’, the film industry in the US is fine. Filming The Hobbit here would hardly solve our economic problems.

      And where exactly would they film it? A Hollywood back lot? Make it all CGI? We don’t exactly have a lot of unmolested wilderness left.

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  • Whatever

    I hope they decide to film it in New Zealand. The sceneries in LOTR were wonderful.
    That said, I’m kind of fed-up all these problems around the movie !! Is it cursed or what ? I hope it will actually be released in 2012.

    • Eduardo

      Photos Released: The Dwarves! Jul 15th, 2011 by Kang. Following in the footsteps of the The Hobbit movie stlils released a few weeks ago, Peter Jackson has now released photos of the dwarves, and they are

  • Jacob

    Wow. He looks tired. Poor guy. This is just unbelievable.

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